Monday, June 26, 2017

Willie Nelson - Legends of the Grand Ole Opry

This CD contains live recordings of Willie early in his career - from 1964-1967 - "singing his early hits live!". Porter Wagoner introduces Willie for his first appearance as a member of the Opry and he runs through early songs such as the pedal-steel-fueled "Touch Me", the upbeat country swing of "Mr. Record Man", the melancholy ballad "Part Where I Cry" (a sadder version of Buck Owens' "Act Naturally"), the flamingo-ish "I Never Cared For You" (fine guitar playing here), a song that Perry Como covered, "My Own Peculiar Way", a hit of his for Claude Gray, "Family Bible", and one of his most famous numbers, thanks to other people's versions, "Funny How Time Slips Away".

He presents another country bopper in "There'll Be No Teardrops Tonight", shows off his voice in a ballad, "Healing Hands of Time", gives a mid-tempo piece in "One Day at a Time" (with some pretty, reverbed guitar), he covers "Fraulein" as a nice country standard, back to his own for "Darkness on the Face of the Earth", "She's Not For You" (another maudlin ballad) and his hit for Faron Young, "Hello Walls".

The sound varies on these recordings - the latter ones having a better mix, logically - but the musicians are all strong and the performances are solid. Very cool to hear Willie live this early in his career!

Porter Wagoner - Wagonmaster

This 2007 CD was released by Anti (a division of Epitaph) just a few months before Porter passed away, and it is a terrific legacy for this country legend. The songs, the playing and the presentation are all top-notch and all traditional country, without any modern pretenses or pop-country tenancies. We get a full variety of CandW sounds, from upbeat, swingin' country to bluegrass workouts to ballads and everything in between. The production is perfect, with some superb pedal steel and fiddle filling out the standard guitar/bass/drums line-up, and Porter's voice is strong and clear. This could easily pass for class country recordings - a good thing, for sure! Well worth it!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Bobby Kingston with guest Matt Reeves at Saddle'n'Spurs, Saturday June 24, 2017

I've been meaning to get out to see Bobby Kingston's band at SnS for a while now and after seeing the Reeves Brothers a couple of weeks ago and being knocked out by their guitar playing and then hearing that Matt Reeves would be sitting in with Kingston, I made it a point to get out and catch a couple of sets.

Kingston has a hot-shot band even without Matt - everyone sings so plenty of vocal harmonies and solid drumming, fluid bass lines, bluesy guitar, honky-tonk keys and Bobby's acoustic guitar keeping it all together. While Bobby is the leader, everyone took turns singing lead - Matt sang Haggard's "Stay Here and Drink", Jason (guitar) did a rockin' take on CCR's "Green River", bassist Mike took on David Allen Coe, and Bobby, of course, did numbers like "Okie From Muskogee", Mama Tried", "Folsom Prison", George Straight's "Amarillo" and lots more.

Matt continued to blow me away with his effortless, melodic playing and tricks like using the volume knob to emulate a steel guitar. I dug everyone else's playing, as well, and appreciated Bobby's FOUR drink holders on his mic stand! Their tunes got the appreciative crowd (and it was a pretty full bar throughout the night) up'n'dancin' regularly, as well.

Really fun time and an early night, which I can appreciate once in a while (although more music continued after their finished their last set at about 10:00 pm). Saddle'n'Spurs is a fun, comfortable honky-tonk with cheap drinks and a full kitchen. Check it out!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Peculiar Pretzlemen, the Gentlemen of Four Outs at the Golden Tiki, Friday June 23, 2017

It's always an occasion whenever the Peculiar Pretzelmen come to town and the Gentlemen of Four Outs try to play with them whenever we can, so we were grateful to the Golden Tiki for hosting this evening of eclectic music.

The Gentlemen opened with our set of old-time covers, from Cab Calloway to the Harlem Hamfats to Harry Roy to Leon Redbone and lots more. We had a great time warming up the crowd and our new saxman, Jesse Del Quadro tore it up and showed that he is a true Gentlemen!

(Gentlemen photos by Nikki Ruffling)

Our host, The Professor Rex Dart spun cool'n'exotic tunes throughout the night.

Having survived their travels across the harsh desert, Deacon and Kevin dressed to the nines, as they do, for their set as the Pretzelmen. Obviously influenced by Tom Waits, this duo nonetheless has their own sound, created by homemade instruments (film canister "banjo", "mandolin" and more, a modified Japanese guitar and an actual Mandocello) and Deacon's unique "drum" kit, consisting of an oversized bass drum, a couple of cymbals and assorted car parts, pie tins, skillets and whatever else he found that day, it seems! His percussion style is like none other and is an integral part of the songs. Their set consisted mostly of tunes from their assorted CD's, but always included a couple of new songs, from an upcoming record - always a treat! Love these cats - amazing sounds and nice guys - see them any time you get a chance!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Queen - Sheer Heart Attack

Although I was never a big fan of the group's later, campy (mustache and short hair) work, I always enjoyed their early, Led Zep-ish, slightly pompous (in a fun way) heavy metal. This, their third album, might be their most rock'n'roll record that they released.

Opening with "Brighton Rock", Mercury gives his royal vocal treatment to the song and then May gets a chance to turn up his guitar and give an extended, unaccompanied, harmonic solo before the band comes back in for some crashing chords and rockin' riffs. "Killer Queen" became the band's first hit single, a uniquely Queen-sounding tune - eclectic, harmony-driven and balanced between old-fashioned sounding piano rhythms and May's melodically distorted guitar. Drummer Taylor wrote and sang "Tenement Funster", which builds into a heavy instrumental segment before segueing into the dramatically menacing "Flick of the Wrist" and then the ballad "Lily of the Valley". "Now I'm Here" is a dynamic rocker with a cool rave-up ending that includes a bit of Chuck Berry's "Little Queenie".

Side two of the vinyl opened with the ballad "In the Lap of the Gods", basically a vocal work out for Mercury and Taylor, and then we got what is probably their fastest, most manic rocker, "Stone Cold Crazy", with spitfire lyrics and layers of guitars - heavy enough that Mettalica covered it! Another short ballad, "Dear Friends" and then bassist Deacon's mid-tempo rocker "Misfire" (where he plays most of the guitars) and the goofiest song of the record, "Bring Back that Leroy Brown" - a Queen-ly mix of Dixieland and honky-tonk with their own wackiness. May's "She Makes Me" is, I believe, one of their prettiest and most emotional songs (we used this as part of our wedding soundtrack) and then the record closed with "In the Lap of the Gods...Revisited" (which had nothing to do with "In the Lap of the Gods", a big, dramatic singalong number of Mercury's, designed for audience participation. For the CD there is one bonus track - a remix of "Stone Cold Crazy".

This is a solid, rockin' record with plenty of heavy guitars, ingenious solos and, of course, massive harmonies. It is a classic!

The Very Best of Puffy Ami Yumi

I had pretty much forgotten about this cute Japanese duo until I pulled out Spike the other day and realized that we have several of their CDs. Obviously, this is a compendium of theirs, with most of the songs sung in Japanese and the titles on the CD are also in Japanese, so I can't exactly reference them by name!

In any case, this is more fun J-Pop, from the extremely 60's/Beatles-esque opening number, to the 70's disco that follows and the subsequent ELO-like production to their own unique, J-Pop/soundtrack-pop/60's girl group sounds. As I've said, I don't normally go for stuff this slick, but they reference so many cool musical touchstones - 60's garage, 70's glam, punk, funk and more - that it all works as a whole.

Campy, engaging and just plain silly good times ala the best of old school Bubblegum, these young ladies will put a smile on your face as you ask "where have I heard that before" while tapping your toes and attempting to sing along in your best phonetic Japanese!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

recommended gigs

Friday June 23 - the Peculiar Pretzelmen and the Gentlemen of Four Outs at the Golden Tiki

Saturday June 24 - the Super Zeroes at the Double Down
Saturday June 24 - Bobby Kingston and Matt Reeves at Saddle'n'Spurs
Saturday June 24 - the New Waves at the Boulder Dam Brewing Co

Monday June 26 - Spindrift with Jenny Don't and the Spurs and  Bettina May at Backstage Bar and Billiards

Friday June 30 - Shanda and the Howlers at the Golden Tiki

Saturday July 1 - Whiskey Dick, People's Whiskey and Whiskey Breath at the Dive Bar - and Free Whiskey (really!)
Saturday July 1 - Water Landing, Pet Tigers, Radio Silence and more at Evel Pie

Sunday July 2 - Howlin' King Crawdad at Saddle'n'Spurs

Saturday July 8 - Blondie and Garbage at the Palms

Sunday July 9 - Brian Lee Dunning and the Legendary Boilermakers at Evel Pie

Wednesday July 12 - the Jigsaw Seen at the Beauty Bar

Saturday July 15 - Cash'd Out and the Rhyolite Sound and the Reeves Brothers at the Beauty Bar
Saturday July 15 - the New Waves at the Golden Tiki

Friday July 21 - Shanda and the Howlers at the Sand Dollar

Thursday July 27 - Black Pussy, the Freeks, Freelsd's bad trip at Triple B

Wednesday August 2 - the Delta Bombers at the Beauty Bar

Thursday Aug 3 - David Allen Coe at the Dive Bar

Friday August 11 - Goddamn Gallows, Fuzz Solow, the All Togethers at the Dive Bar

Saturday Aug 12 - the Sloths at the Golden Tiki

Saturday August 19 - the New Waves at the Golden Tiki

Wednesday Aug 23 - Les Grys Grys and the Van Der Rohe at the Griffin

Sunday Sept 3 - the Mapes, Gentlemen Prefer Blood, Odd Robot at the Dive Bar

Thursday Sept 7 - Sept 10 - Big Blues Bender at the Plaza

Friday Sept 8 - Mitch Ryder at the Golden Nugget

Thursday Sept 28 - Thee Fourgiven reunion show with the Darts, the Jackets (from Switzerland) and the Laissez Fairs at the Bunkhouse

What have I forgotten? Lemme know

The Cheeks - Have Some Real Fun and Sure 'Nuff Action With the C-14 Hit Machine Gun

Speaking of pop, I also recently pulled out my old German friends, The Cheeks, to dig their punk-pop magic in the longest-titled album of all time. With my pal Lutz Rauber (ex-Embryonics) on guitar, the band also included Kono on vocals (who I believe still continues with a version of the group), Sugar on bass, backing vocals and songwriting, Dirk on guitar and Olaf on drums. This late 90's combo was certainly influenced by other Screaming Apple acts like the Yum Yums and produced high energy pop with a punk rock edge.

Catchiness abounds in tune likes the summer sensation "Walk in the Sun", the highly melodic break up number, "Don't Wanna Be With You", the cool start'n'stops (and super groovy guitar leads) in "Can We Go Dancin'", nice tremelo guitar and energy in "Sugar 25", the hopeless love lament and almost country-esque lead guitar in "Confidential", more unrequited love in the harmony-driven "No Start No End", and raw guitar work in "Try, Make Up Your Mind".

The rest of the album continues in this vein - 70's punk meets 60's garage and pop with solid playing throughout, nice melodic lead work and plenty of harmonies and melodies. These cats were loads of good-time pop-punk action! Check 'em out!

(Sorry for the lousy photo - I couldn't find a clear shot I could swipe on the Interwebs)

Puffy Ami Yumi - Spike

In the late 90's/early 00's I became infatuated with pop with power - obviously culminating in the formation of the Excessories with Melanie singing - and I searched out modern bands as well as the classic power-pop bands of the 70's. Japan's music scene has been vital and exciting for a number of decades now, specializing in garage, punk and especially pop. Puffy Ami Yumi are a duo (Ami and Yumi) who specialize in harmonies and mix pop culture, pop art and pop music in a Japanese blender and come out with this uniquely rockin' style of new-wave pop.

There are nods to Adam and the Ants in the opening "Boogie Woogie No. 5", super happy 70's radio-pop with synth noodling in "Violet", Redd Kross-ish stompin' r'n'r in "Shut Your Mouth honey", softer 70's radio-friendly disco sounds in "Cosmic Wonder", more heavy guitars (and nice slide work) in the wonderfully titled "Destruction Pancake", hints of T.Rex and other glam-rock combined with 50's r'n'r in "SU-I SU-I" that continues in "SUI SUI" while adding Beach Boys vocal harmonies and Chuck Berry guitar.

"Swimming Pool" sounds like a soundtrack to a disco/soul/funk exploitation film, "Green Apple" incorporates 60's and 70's pop with a bit of Beatles thrown in, gotta love the title of the Beatles-ish ballad "This Is the Song of Sweet Sweet Season When Cherry Garcia Blossoms Bloom" and well as the upbeat summer fun of "Into the Beach". "Puffy's Rule" is more swingin', harmony-drenched, organ-fueled good times, "December" is a slower, piano-led, 60's-ish ballad, while "Love So Pure" (written by Jellyfish's Andy Sturmer, who produced several tracks, as well) is a fantastically catchy piece of pop-rock (and one of the few songs sung in English here), and then the closer "Wild Girls on Circuit" is a bit too much of a dance-number (in an annoying way) for my tastes.

Yes, this is slicker than most pop that I prefer, but these queen of J-Pop produced some amazing sounds and had all of the right influences. Super-fun!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Guitar Wolf, Isaac Rother and the Phantoms, Mercy Music, Self Abuse at the Beauty bar, Sunday June 18, 2017

Bad luck and family health issues have kept us from seeing a number of shows that we wanted to get out to, but we were determined to make it for Japanese legend Guitar Wolf. Outdoor shows can be challenging in Las Vegas - in the wintertime we have below freezing temperatures and in the summer the temps can stay over 100 degrees at midnight, as it did this evening. Regardless, the Beauty Bar gave us four hard rockin' groups who put on great performances despite the heat.

Opening the night was locals Self Abuse, featuring bassist around town Rob Ruckus, singer Riley and original members Anthony (drums) and Sean (guitar). They have a melodic 70's punk sound with great vocals, drivin' rhythms and solid guitar work. Real songs and rockin' stage presence. They don't play around too often, but catch 'em when they do!

Mercy Music is another local group that is also playing their own brand of punk-pop, with all three members singing. They're highly energetic, tight and quite animated. Their sound is a bit more polished, being almost reminiscent of groups like Green Day. Good stuff and visually entertaining!

LA's Isaac Rother and the Phantoms claim Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, Bo Diddley and Scooby Doo as influences and all seem apparent as they run through their horror-themed tunes attempting to claim the crown of "the most ghoulish band in rock'n'roll"! Dressed all in black with Isaac draped in a cape and a spandex-clad female backing vocalist, the set consisted of early r'n'r, garage and surf sounds with covers like "Haunted House", "Heebie Jeebies" and Howlin' Wolf's "Evil" sung by the female vocalist (sorry, no names on their Facebook page!). They're all fine players - really dug the guitar sound and style (an old Eko or similar), the rollin'/drivin' bass lines and solid drums - and they have some cool original material. The spooky schtick probably works a bit better in a smaller, darker and interior setting, but they were a lot of fun - certainly would check them out again!

Appearing on stage clad in dinosaur masks (for no apparent reason), Guitar Wolf strapped on their instruments and proceeded to pummel the audience with a feedback drenched, high energy, punk'n'roll show of epic proportions! The masks didn't last long, but the rock'n'roll did as these three Japanese Link Wray look-alikes tore up the Beauty Bar stage, never standing still, climbing over the PA and anything else nearby, posing like the rock stars they are and slamming through a set of originals and covers like their demolition of "Summertime Blues". It's pretty much impossible to describe or capture the madness of their show, but the crowd loved it and went nutz throughout as the band did the same! The you to Pulsar and the Beauty Bar for bringing this legendary act to Las Vegas!